Ian Poulter pleased with promising form ahead of the Masters

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  • Most golfers start to slow down when they near 40.

    But Ian Poulter has played some of his best golf in recent years, always proving to be a titan in those pressure moments.

    Second at the 2017 Players, third at the 2017 Canadian Open, a stunning win at Houston in 2018, and third in Dubai and Mexico, are among some of his standout results over the last four seasons.

    That’s not to mention his sizzling performances at the 2018 Ryder Cup, which included a win alongside Rory McIlroy in the foursomes plus victory over world No1 Dustin Johnson in the singles.

    He always delivers in the big moments and he’s got just as much passion, if not more, than many of the young stars coming through the ranks at present.

    That hunger and constant desire to improve has always been evident in his game and will be no different when he tees off at the Masters in Georgia next Thursday.

    Poulter, one of the ambassadors for DP World’s involvement in the Dubai Fitness Challenge, withdrew from the Houston Open this week because of a minor back injury. The extra rest has allowed him to be in prime shape for the final major of the year, at Augusta National.

    Aside from the back injury, the Englishman has shown quality form in recent weeks, finishing in a tie for sixth at the Scottish Open, fifth at Wentworth and a share of 12th at Shadow Creek. Form that bodes well as he attempts a charge for a first major triumph.

    “I am happy with the form heading into next week. The good thing is that I’ve had nearly two weeks rest as well,” he tells Sport360.

    “I had an MRI (on my back) and there are no issues whatsoever which is amazing. I just have to take it easy and build up a practice schedule that allows me to be as fresh as possible going into the Masters.

    “There was a bit of a back spasm that I had at Wentworth. My body didn’t enjoy playing in the rain in Scotland either.

    “From that moment, it locked up pretty good. I’ve been having a lot of treatment to alleviate the spasm, itself.”

    Time at home in Orlando has allowed the world number 48 to sharpen his game and use that extra week of recovery to give him the best possible chance of arriving at Augusta pain-free.

    Around the pristine greens at the Georgia-based course, the 44-year-old has enjoyed fine form in recent years with T10, 7 and T6 finishes since 2010. In 2019, he fired a pair of 68s to place in a tie for 12th, five shots behind winner Tiger Woods.

    For any golfer, winning a green jacket is the ultimate prize. And even if there are no fans at the tournament this year, Poulter will still feel that same excitement and motivation when he drives down Magnolia Lane over the coming days.

    “From the perspective of someone who watches the Masters year in, year out, it’s as fun for us to play as it is for you to watch it. We get the same buzz every time the gates open and you are allowed to drive down Magnolia Lane,” he says.

    “You are still going to have the feeling of playing for a major. You know the course so well.

    “You know the contours of the green. You know how the course is going to be set up.

    “You know where the different pin locations are going to be. You’ll prepare in the same way as always.

    “It’s just going to be different playing in November. I’m not sure many of the field has ever played the course in November because normally you get the invitation on January 1.

    “From that moment, you are allowed to practice and prepare in the months leading up to that. You don’t normally get the opportunity to play in November unless you are playing with a member.”

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    It’s going to be a thrilling battle at the Masters and, no doubt, each player feels a heightened sense of anticipation. Irrespective of whether you are ranked number one or 60th in the world, each will have their own individual ambitions to slip into that esteemed green jacket come next Sunday evening.

    Bryson Dechambeau, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are in form and ready to tussle for a maiden Masters title while Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are poised to lead a strong European charge.

    The bulked-up Dechambeau, who captured the US Open in September, is the favourite despite finishing outside the top-25 in his last two starts at Augusta.

    Now considered the longest hitter on the PGA Tour – averaging 344.4 yards – the American will attack the par-5s, especially at 13 and 15, in a bid to secure a second major of 2020.

    Poulter says: “There will be a lot of emphasis and pressure on (Bryson) Dechambeau, like where does he hit it? How does he play? Can he destroy the par-5s? Can he hit it over the trees at 13?.

    “It’s such a wonderful golf course that we are going to have to let this one play out and see what happens.

    “Brooks (Koepka) has had a chunk of time off and he’s obviously been preparing extremely hard to go a couple closer than he did last year. He was super close.

    “There are so many factors of people coming into form and players that could pitch up at their first major and be very close. (Colin) Morikawa and guys that don’t have tonnes of experience on that golf course but are very good golfers.”

    After the Masters, Poulter will tackle the RSM Classic at Sea Island before travelling to Dubai for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on December 10-13.

    He has been a regular to the UAE since joining the European Tour in 2000. At Jumeirah Golf Estates, his most prominent finish came in 2010, losing to Robert Karlsson on the second play-off hole.

    Three years later, he finished second again, six strokes behind Henrik Stenson. And even if the years have ticked on, he still has the firepower to produce.

    “My biggest message for all will be to enjoy this experience of being part of this Dubai Fitness Challenge initiative of the Dubai Sports Council. The wonders of playing golf, even if you have never picked up a club before, is great. And what is even great is to bring in new people to golf,” he says.

    “Any opportunity we can give to the next generation, be it boys, girls or adults, is a great thing for us as the future is secure. I am excited to see DP World get involved in this initiative and I wait and see who comes out and wins those great prizes.”